Some experts believe that Social media platforms are addictive and say the developers of such platforms as Facebook and Twitter have admitted that they were designed to be just that.
The most senior executives of these companies, do not use their own platforms in the same way as mere mortals. It seems they talk the talk but do not walk the walk.
The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, doesn’t use Facebook in the same way as most of us. He has a team of 12 moderators just dedicated to removing spam and deleting comments from his page.
According to Bloomberg He has a “handful” of employees who help him write his posts and speeches and a number of professional photographers who take perfectly stage-managed pictures of him from meeting veterans in Kentucky, or cheesesteak vendors in Philadelphia to small business owners in Missouri. Normal people cannot see the private posts on his timeline.
Along with Zuckerberg, none of Facebook’s key executives have a ‘normal’ Facebook presence. They rarely post publicly and you can’t add them as friends. Along with this some information that Facebook suggests be made public by default, such as the number of friends you have, is kept private by these executives.
Facebook is not alone, the story at Twitter is the same. Out of the company’s nine most senior executives only four tweet more than once a day on average. Twitter’s chief financial officer, Ned Segal has sent fewer than 2 tweets a month over the 6 years he has been on the site and its co-found, Jack Dorsey, a relatively prolific tweeter, has sent about 23,000 since the launch of Twitter. This is a lot less than half the amount of tweets the average engaged user has sent over the same period.
It is not unusual across the social media sector that their own executives do not use their own products in the same way they advocate to the rest of us. The question has been asked how can these companies build the best possible service if they don’t engage with their own platforms in the same way normal people do.
Some believe it could be that they know something the rest of us don’t.
Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook told a conference in Philadelphia in October last year, that he was “something of a conscientious objector” to social media. “The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’ That means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content and that’s going to get you … more likes and comments,” he said. The short-term dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works.”
A month later, former Facebook vice president for user growth Chamath Palihapitiya said, “It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators – me, Mark [Zuckerberg] Kevin Systrom on Instagram, all of these people – understood this consciously. And we did it anyway. The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth.”
Palihapitiya said at a conference in Stanford California. “This is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other. I can control my decision, which is that I don’t use that shit. I can control my kids’ decisions, which is that they’re not allowed to use that shit.”
Facebook responded to these comments by saying “When Chamath was at Facebook, we were focused on building new social media experiences and growing Facebook around the world, Facebook was a very different company back then … as we have grown, we have realised how our responsibilities have grown, too. We take our role very seriously and we are working hard to improve.”
But, psychologist Adam Alter and author of Irresistible, an examination of technology addiction says, “Our addictions to social media “haven’t happened accidentally.” Instead, he argues, they are a direct result of the intention of companies such as Facebook and Twitter to build “sticky” products, ones that we want to come back to over and over again. “The companies that are producing these products, the very large tech companies in particular, are producing them with the intent to hook. They’re doing their very best to ensure not that our wellbeing is preserved, but that we spend as much time on their products and on their programs and apps as possible. That’s their key goal: it’s not to make a product that people enjoy and therefore becomes profitable, but rather to make a product that people can’t stop using and therefore becomes profitable. What Parker and Palihapitiya are saying is that these companies, companies that they’ve been exposed to at the highest levels and from very early on, have been founded on these principles – that we should do everything we possibly can to hack human psychology, to understand what it is that keeps humans engaged and to use those techniques not to maximise wellbeing, but to maximise engagement. And that’s explicitly what they do.”